Cleaning ‘The Dress’

My mom has been pestering me since I moved to take my wedding dress out of her closet and sell it.  Honestly, if it hadn’t been for her prodding, I would have left it at her house and discovered it in 10-20 years when she decides to sell the place, probably dangling from tiny threads on the hanger.

Some quick history:  My wedding took place in an upper level of a barn-style building — in mid-June and the air conditioner broke a few days before.  So my dress was essentially sitting in my mom’s closet, unwashed from the wedding, and slow-roasting in the dried molecules of my sweat for almost two years.  Gross.

When I got it out to see what needed to be addressed, I was aghast.  My beautiful white dress was covered in gross yellow splotches. Ughhhh.  I’d like to think the amount of DayQuil I excreted that day was only slightly diluted with the sweat.


The blue is spot treater, the yellow is DayQuil sweat.

Then I researched and found a way to clean it in my own washer. And holy shit, it actually worked.  Here are my steps:

1. Spot treat the crap out of it.  Go to your local superstore and get a medium grade spot treater.  I’m talking a bit stronger than the absolute cheapest thing, but not something that will bleach or damage the material.  My advice? If it’s silk, get it treated professionally. Polyester, however, is okay for this kind of treatment.

IMG_1425 IMG_1426

2. Get rough.  I spent a good hour finding spots, soaking, and rubbing the spot treater into the fabric. This can also count as your workout for the day.

3. Turn your dress inside-out.  If there are laces, pull them free, and attach the ribbon to the top of the dress in a loose bow. Clasp any clasps, as it will prevent other things from catching on the bodice.  The point here is to protect any sort of beads or embellishment. Make sure your washer is clean before you put the wedding dress inside.  There are things you can buy to run through for a cycle, as I saw at Target.

4. Once you are confident that your dress will not get dirtier by being in your washer, stick it in on the delicate cycle.  Throw in some gentle detergent (I used Woolite), unless you spot treated the shit out of it.  Too much detergent is wasteful, risky, and silly. And your dress will smell like mine, a very large laundry factory.


5. When the cycle is over, you might want to stick it in for an extra rinse cycle.  I didn’t trust my spin cycle, so I interrupted it.

6. Hang it up somewhere where you can spread it out and it won’t get damaged. Leave it.  You could throw it in the dryer on a low, gentle cycle, but after seeing how the yellow had disappeared, I suddenly wasn’t as reckless as I had been.

The next step for me is to clean it again to get most of the extra soap out (it smells like a laundry factory) and to spot treat the hems, since they are still kind of dirty.  Admittedly, I focused more on the yellow, since that was the scariest aspect. After it dries from the second wash, I’ll resew any loose clasps or beads.

Photo Apr 15, 2 50 24 PMNote: I took a huge risk when I did this, because I thought the dress wasn’t salvageable.  I did not want to pay for a professional cleaning, because I am cheap and thought the return wouldn’t justify that. Realize that you are accepting fate by throwing

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